Written by Tony Robinson
Before starting, the meeting host should print out enough copies of this page (click on green printer icon above) for everyone in the group.
After general introductions, word of welcome and review of guidelines for small groups the meeting host will:
1. Invite someone to read the daily devotion printed below aloud.
2. Read the following introduction to the full text aloud:
In today's reflection, Rev. Tony Robinson imagines the experience of Zechariah and Elizabeth upon the birth of their son, who will become John the Baptist, and explores the meaning and role of wonder—amazement, not knowing—in our lives and in our faith. Tony quotes Gregory of Nyssa: "Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees." What do you think of that statement?
3. Read the full text again (below): Luke 1: 57-66
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, "No; he is to be called John." 61 They said to her, "None of your relatives has this name." 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, "What then will this child become?" For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
4. Take a minute or two for silent contemplation.
5. As a group, reflect on the following questions (remember to refrain from cross-talk):
What word, phrase or image jumps out at you from this reading? Everyone shares without commentary.
What’s God saying to you in this passage? (remember to refrain from cross talk)
What is the call to action for you and/or for our faith community? (feel free to engage in group conversation when discussing calls to action).
6. Close the meeting by praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
"'What will this child turn out to be?' they wondered." - Luke 1: 66
It would be an odd person who, looking upon the face of a newborn baby, did not experience wonder. Wonder at brand new life. Wonder at the ever-changing expressions on that tiny face. Gazing on a newborn's face is akin, I've thought, to watching the shifting sky and clouds above. And wonder at what this child shall become . . . .
The particular baby of Luke's story is John, who will be John the Baptist, herald of Jesus. John's birth is attended by an extra dollop of wonder. His until-now childless parents are old when he is conceived. His father, Zechariah, had been struck instantly speechless for doubting the angel Gabriel's promise of a child. Now, suddenly, Zechariah finds his tongue when he confirms the mother, Elizabeth's, unconventional choice of a name—"John." "But no one in your family has that name!" the kinfolks protested. "His name is John," wrote Zechariah—underlines for emphasis.
A child was born to the wrong people. Speech, suddenly gone, just as suddenly returns. An unprecedented name. Something strange, something wondrous, is afoot.
Wonder abounds. Which is a good thing, a very good thing. St. Gregory of Nyssa once commented, "Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees."
Take a break today—maybe for the entire Advent season—from concepts and lists, from judgments and bickering. Only wonder. Fall to your knees at the wonder of it all. And while you are there, praise God for babies, for speech and silence, for your own wondrous life, and for the baby God who comes to share our life and set us free from sin's power, even Jesus.
For this special season of wonder that is Advent, I praise and thank you, O Lord. Let the healing magic of wonder rest upon me this day.